As a suit and tie wearing professional, you would not think it to look at me, but the reality is that I adore all things creepy, dark, and scary, in literature and film. Few things thrill me more than discovering a new frightening tale from around the globe and watching it in utter darkness. I believe that if you were ever to find yourself in a horror film, I am the guy you would want in your corner. What I lack in overall brawn and physique (and that is a lot), I more than make up for with the finely tuned skill to recognize the hidden clues leading to success in evading impending doom.
While pondering a recent horror film, thinking about the avoidable mistakes that led to the ultimate and gruesome demise of the main characters, I realized that many of those common sense lessons of how to survive a horror scenario, apply to life overall and even in our professional lives. While it may be rare to find oneself fighting for their lives in a professional setting, it can sometimes feel that way. More commonly though, we find ourselves in circumstances requiring action, paralyzed by fear, making avoidable mistakes. These are a few of the leadership lessons I have learned from horror films:
Leadership Lessons That May LITERALLY Save Your Life
- When you realize you are off course, admit it and course correct. Why do we need to wait for the stranger to run out from the corn fields in front of the car, in the middle of the night, when passing the town that does not appear on any map, to be a sufficient enough sign to turn around? When a course correction is needed, whether that be in a project or even with our team members, there is no such thing as “too far in”. The logic of ignoring signs and hoping that things or people will simply self-correct is a pathway to doom.
- Look around for all available tools, even when there are seemingly none at hand. So you ran from the kitchen and forgot to grab any one of the multiple knives or other sharp objects that you will potentially need to defend yourself; stop and look around. The clay bust your child made of George Washington in the 3rd grade, or the executive that you met and exchanged business cards with at the last networking event, may be just what you need to gain extra time to freedom.
- There is safety in numbers. It is no secret that teams can achieve more than individuals, yet somehow at the moment when there is a project at hand such as searching the graveyard, the caverns, or the empty house with thunderous footsteps, the rationale is that “we will cover more ground if we separate.” This is the point where all of the side players in the movie meet their demise and can also hold true in business. Breaking off to work on projects alone or separating from the group who “may slow me down a little”, we can ultimately lose a lot more of the overall time and resources and can even lead to the “work death” of employee disengagement.
- Making it through is not always winning. Few horror films end without the satisfaction of one downtrodden and filth covered individual limping their way out to freedom. While we feel somewhat better, part of the reality of the genre is that little is to be celebrated due to the cost along the way. Often times, companies may make it to the end of a specific project or larger goal only to realize that the cost, monetarily, team morale, distraction from more relevant goals, etc. outweighs the return on investment.
When examining the commonalities in lack of survival in a horror or business setting, the most easily identifiable thread of both, is ego. When it is time to admit that a course correction is necessary, or that readily available tools and resources are needed, it is our own egos that hinder our ability to simply stop, assess the situation, take action and live to work another day!